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Risk taking behaviour in bipolar affective disorder

By Kristin Bunch


This piece of research was designed to explore the nature of risk taking behaviour and impulsivity in bipolar affective disorder. Involvement in pleasurable activities that have a high potential, or risk, for unwanted consequences forms one of the DSM IV diagnostic criteria for (hypo)mania; however, little research has investigated the prevalence of risk taking behaviour in this population, nor the possible meaning of such behaviour. Furthermore, research has demonstrated that individuals diagnosed with bipolar disorder have elevated trait levels of impulsivity, as well as increased levels of state impulsivity during mood episodes. Much research has theoretically linked impulsivity with risk taking behaviour; however, little research has measured both constructs simultaneously. Therefore, this research was designed to measure both the propensity to engage in risk taking behaviour and levels of impulsivity via multiple methods in individuals diagnosed with bipolar disorder who were currently euthymic, to establish a baseline measure in the absence of clinically significant symptomatology. Two control groups were used; one was comprised of individuals with no history of psychiatric disorder and a group of individuals diagnosed with major depressive disorder, to establish the specificity of any findings to bipolar disorder rather than affective disorders in general. The bipolar group scored more highly on the behavioural measure of impulsivity and some aspects of the self-report measure than the two control groups, who did not differ significantly. the two clinical groups also reported higher levels of unhelpful coping strategies when experiencing depressed mood, including engaging in dangerous activities; however, there were no between groups differences on the behavioural risk taking task. The findings were discussed in relation to psychological models of bipolar disorders. Limitations of the research and ideas for future research were also discussed.\ud \ud \u

Publisher: Academic Unit of Psychiatry and Behavioural Sciences (Leeds)
Year: 2010
OAI identifier: oai:etheses.whiterose.ac.uk:1176

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